|Sarah Cabrales (l) and Raquel Pearson celebrating Canada Day in downtown Ottawa. Sunday July 1, 2012. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI AGENCY)
OTTAWA -- While Canada was celebrating its 145th birthday from coast to coast on Sunday, the only number that mattered to Dave and Karen Lesaux was 40.
It was on the same day four decades earlier that the two were happily wed in Douglas, Ont., about 40 minutes outside of Ottawa.
But why get married on Canada's most important national holiday?
"It wasn't a big deal 40 years ago," Dave said, thinking back to the best day of his life in 1972.
"Canada Day really gained prominence in about 1980, it became a huge, blown-up event."
With the kids all uprooted, the couple thought this year was the perfect time to return to celebrate in Ottawa, where they met on a blind date in 1967.
Thousands took in Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill, which included the traditional open-air concert and fireworks display.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen David Johnston attended the noon-hour Canada Day festivities, with Harper paying tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years on the throne.
"It's our country, it's our celebration," Harper said. "This is our day to celebrate our 145th birthday, our day to be proud.
"And we have many things to be proud of as Canadians."
"Proud" was Harper's theme in his address to the crowd.
"Proud of a strong and growing economy," he said. "Proud of a caring and compassionate society.
"Proud and ready to cheer on the young men and women who are headed to London, our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
"And as always, proud of the bravery and devotion of our men and women in uniform.
Canada Day was made a little more special for 105 people at Heritage Park in Calgary Sunday, all of them now Canadian citizens.
They came here from 33 countries across the globe and, after calling Canada home for years, made it official Sunday.
Rachmandip Kaursohal has lived in Canada for six years, working as a lab assistant for Canadian Blood Services.
Her journey started in India, with a desire for a better life as a woman.
"Back home the ladies are not up to the level of the men," she said.
"The women (here) are working in all the fields (and) back home they're just in the household and a few professions ... (here) they're treated as equal."
Kaursohal's husband, Avnash Singh, joined her three years ago and is now working as an accountant. They have a two-year-old daughter who was born here.
The best part, she said, is her daughter was born into all the opportunities she never had.
Excited for his wife Sunday, Singh looks forward to the day he can hear his own name called out at a citizenship ceremony.
"This is a very good country (and) a very peaceful country," he said.
It's an experience to be cherished, said Manish Pantha, who was made a Canadian citizen Sunday along with his wife and five-year-old daughter, after almost five years of living here.
They went to America first from Nepal, to Boston, MA, where he went to school and where his daughter Raya was born and actually held citizenship before Sunday.
"It's the story of an immigrant," he said with a laugh. "You can achieve whatever you want in this country and that's the most important thing for me, and for my daughter as well."
Pantha works as an engineer.
Among those welcoming Canada's newest citizens was Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose parents immigrated to Calgary.
"You all made the right choice -- you've come to a place where the community cares about you," he said. "It wants you to succeed (and) it wants you to be great."
Sunday's event at Heritage Park was one event of a plethora within Calgary to celebrate Canada Day, including blowouts at Prince's Island Park, Forth Calgary and Olympic Plaza and topped with a fireworks show from the Centre Street Bridge.
Edmonton welcomed 60 new Canadians at the legislature.
"I was really serious about it and very, very excited. I didn't sleep last night. I was just shaking all over I was so excited," said Mary Cumberbatch, who took the oath alongside her daughter, Dale-Marie.
The two have been in Canada for the past 17 years, having immigrated from Barbados.
"It was amazing. I've been here over half of my life so it's great to just get that paper, even though I consider myself Canadian already," Dale-Marie said following the ceremony. "A lot of people don't know it is a long process. You have to apply and it takes at least six months to a year to get a letter back saying you can come and write your exam.
"Then you write your exam and on top of that you have to wait three months to know if you passed or six months to know if you failed. If you fail you have to apply again and it takes a year."
The hard work involved was not lost on others getting their citizenship.
Ahamed Mohamed came to Canada from Somalia six years ago, after spending almost five years escaping civil war.
"It was a civil war going on in Somalia. We flee with my family and we came here. Canada is the best country in the world," said a smiling Mohamed, his new citizenship papers in hand.
He recalled what it first was like to come to Canada.
"The first time it's kind of a culture shock. You come from a war-torn country and you expect insecurity and everything. But you come here it's beautiful. You don't have to see guns and you don't have to be scared. It's a beautiful thing," he said.
Jefferson Aggrey also left Africa five years ago, coming to Canada from Ghana. His exodus was driven more by opportunity than political strife.
"My wife came here and I had to be sponsored to be here. I came to be with my family," Aggrey said. "It wasn't all that bad as compared to other West African countries.
"I completed university over there. I couldn't get a job right away. I had to travel to another West African country to work as a teacher."
Some were more interested in the opportunities for future generations.
Irina Afanasieva raised her hand and swore the oath next to her daughter, Valeria Stolov. They came from Ukraine six years ago and worked hard to complete the citizenship training.
"It was really hard for me. It took a couple of years to settle in and get used to new ways," said 15-year-old Stolov.
For her mom, there was one word to describe what it felt like to hear their names announced after all the hard work.
"Proud," a beaming Afanasieva said. "Finally, we are part of a family. It's incredible, it's memorable. It's once in a lifetime."
In Winnipeg, thousands came out on a sunny Canada to be part of a living flag.
The second annual event drew more participants than last year when rain dampened turnout.
The Downtown BIZ hoped to get upwards of 5,000 people to come out and claim the title of the biggest flag in the country.
The final number is not yet known though BIZ officials were hoping to have a better turnout than Langley, B.C., which was also doing a flag this year.
Bands kept the crowd entertained before the massive flag took shape.
A Canadian Forces Hercules air plane flew close to the ground when the flag was fully assembled.
A 15-gun salute capped off the morning's celebrations.
-- with files from Damien Wood, Dave Lazzarino